The last few weeks on site in Ottumwa have been very exciting and eventful. Construction activities have ramped up a ton. I got to witness the first columns of steel being erected, the first outlet ducts be fabricated, and the delivery of the first pieces of the Manitowoc 21000 crane, which will come in a total of 68 truck loads. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my time here so far is that no matter how much planning and coordination you do for a construction project, there are still problems that arise that you couldn’t have predicted.
For instance, a major scope of the project this past month has been to build a crane pad for the 21000 crane. To do this, we have had to excavate a large area in the yard outside the plant. In the process, a system of pipes was discovered that run through the yard. There were no existing drawings that showed what the pipes were used for or their path. We brought in a hydro-excavator to pothole around the yard so we were able to determine where the pipes went and their purpose. I was able to assist one of the on-site engineers in taking measurements of the pipe dimensions, then I added the pipe paths to existing drawings and sent them to the engineering side of the joint venture who added them to the official drawings. We then encased some of the pipes in concrete and rerouted others to protect them from the weight of the massive crane that will be erected in a couple of weeks. One of the things I find most exciting about the construction industry is this need to be able to navigate around unforeseen problems quickly so that you can stay on schedule and under budget.
Another project I’ve been given was to complete the 3D Lift Plan. This is an online-program that allows you to build your construction site on the website then insert the cranes you will be using on-site. The program has almost any crane you can think of and the lift capacity, radius, and a lot of other information for each crane. Using the program, you can figure out how large of lifts you can make and how far you can make them. To put the existing plant and structures around the plant into the program, I had to use our 3D model of the site and take some measurements on my own to get the right dimensions. I then added the cranes we would be using and some of the larger items we would need to lift. I had a lot of fun working on this, and I know it will be helpful to the team.
This past week my main focus has been to compile the Material Receiving Reports. These reports are made for each delivery we get to the site. They include information about the items delivered, the inspector's report of the items, and pictures. I compiled all the reports, filed them, and put them in the file database we share with the engineering side of the joint venture and the subcontractors so everyone has access to them. Once I became familiar with that process, I was able to start receiving the truckloads myself. This means I am notified when a load will arrive, then I go inspect it, fill out the report, and take pictures once it does. It’s so cool to me that I’ve been given this responsibility since this is something that the project engineers usually do. It makes me feel like a real project engineer.
I can’t believe I’m more than halfway through the summer. My time here has flown by and I can’t wait to see what else I’m able to get involved with in the next five weeks.
Since I last posted, I have learned a lot about working in an automotive plant. One of the key things about construction work in a car plant is coordination. Last summer, Alberici was the only contractor on the project site that I was on, and they organized all work on site. This summer, however, many different contractors with many different contracts with Fiat-Chrysler are working on one site. Every morning, there are coordination meetings to make sure there are no conflicts with everyone’s work. Dozens of people attend these hour-long meetings, and there is a lot of discussion as to how to resolve the issues on site in that hour alone. The amount of coordination that needs to occur for a project of this size to run is astounding, but with strong communication, completing the project is possible.
After two weeks on the General Assembly side of the Fiat-Chrysler Sterling Heights Plant, I moved to the south side of the plant to help with the construction of the Paint Shop. Despite just moving to another side of a building, a whole new project with a whole new set of challenges, organization, and people is underway! To start, I assisted one of the superintendents in overseeing miscellaneous projects on site, including cutting holes to allow for ductwork. There is a strict deadline for this project, as the holes need to be cut to allow a helicopter to fly over the building and place ductwork in the holes.
Now that I’ve settled in, my main project the past couple of weeks is to be the administrator of a log of items that have been developed to aid in finishing the project on time. A strict deadline to produce vehicles is in place that needs to be met, and this log of items has been developed to gather all issues that haven’t been resolved and find a way to resolve them. These items come from issues all over this section of the project, so as I record these issues, I learn a lot about what is needed to build a car paint shop. I have also learned a lot about the process of getting these items ready to be built. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that needs to occur for a subcontractor to be given specific work, which includes the general contractor asking subcontractors for a price for an item, reviewing the prices, and then selecting the best subcontractor and issuing them a document called a purchase order that provides them the money to do the work. Sometimes the work needs to be changed and reviewed, and so some of those steps may repeat. With the size of the project and the amount of work, this process is repeated many times. Coordination is also key with this project, as there is coordination that needs to occur between Fiat-Chrysler, the project management staff, the engineers, and every subcontractor to identify interferences and unresolved issues and ways to resolve them. As the administrator of this log, I review these issues and communicate the issues in the best way possible to the people who work on these issues. It’s a big task, as a report centered around this log is sent to the senior management of Fiat-Chrysler every week. It requires a lot of detail and time, but it has been teaching me a lot and it’s great to know that Alberici is willing to give important work like this to me.
I only have 5 weeks left. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me!